'We won't sing Munni Badnaam Hui'

So says Ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, who alongwith singer Ghulam Ali, promises fans a top-notch concert tonight. Expect encore performances of Aawargi and Aahista Aahista as well as other timeless classics

To be able to interact with Jagjit 'Ghazal King' Singh, one has to pass what seems like a validity test set up by him. He tossed a few questions about his co-performer Ghulam Ali, the Ghazal legend from Pakistan, and himself towards us. We might have answered satisfactorily because Singh (who seemed like he'd got up on the wrong side of the bed) finally agreed to be interviewed.

Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali share a light moment before the concert.
Pic/Rane Ashish

Generations of Ghazal listeners have been introduced to beautiful Urdu poetry by the two singers for decades now. In a casting coup of sorts, they have been brought together for the Fever Unplugged concert that will be held tonight at Shanmukhananda Hall. We spent a few moments in the company the legendary singers before the concert.

Excerpts from the interview:
Over the years, both of you have performed Ghazals written by poets such as Mirza Ghalib, Nida Fazli, and Gulzar. Is there a particular poet who has become a favourite?

Jagjit Singh: I don't have a favourite poet. If a poet writes a good Ghazal he becomes a favourite. Personally, I don't have a favourite as such.
Ghulam Ali: I don't think I have a favourite poet. But yes, I do have favourite poetry because for us it does not matter who the poet is, what we're looking for is depth of thought. Even so, (Mirza) Ghalib or Daagh (Dehlvi) or Mir (Taqi Mir) are amongst my favourite poets. Actually a poet's work opens up through the singer's voice. How the audience react to the words depends largely on how the singer understands, composes and presents the ghazal. Even when a poet has penned the most beautiful words, if the singer does not do justice, then the Ghazal will not have the same impact. Favouritism ho jaata hai aahista aahista. For instance, I've performed a lot of poetry by Nasir Kazmi and Ahmed Faraz and bhaijaan (Singh) has sung a lot of Ghalib so they've become favourites.
JS: But that does not mean only Ghalib is my favourite.

How will the concert be structured? Have you planned something special?

JS: We haven't planned anything for the performance. Even earlier, we had an extempore performance. We sing what we feel like. It all depends on what comes to mind at that time, how my throat is feeling, how the audience is and so on.

Apart from Ghazals, even your Punjabi songs are very popular. Will we get to hear them at the concert?

JS: We'll include Punjabi numbers if there is a demand for the songs depending on what the crowd wants.
GA: If the crowd wants, we can sing the Punjabi songs together. But it really depends on what the public demands. We're here to perform for our audience.

Increasingly, we see the quality of lyrics and music deteriorating in films and popular songs. Are you concerned with how popular music is created these days?

JS: Why should we care about what is being created now. What do we care what another person is doing. We've been brought up on good poetry so that's what we can give back to the public...
GA: Our Ghazals bring a sense of peace...
JS: We've gone through disciplined learning and riyaaz for years. With a background like that, obviously we won't sing Munni Badnaam Hui. Our audience has a certain expectation from us and it's our responsibility to fulfil those expectations.
GA: Whether it's a Ghazal or a film song, it depends on how the sur (melody) comes together in a particular composition. If the sur is good then it doesn't matter if the song is fast or slow.

Is there a particular experience you remember from your performances together?

GA: When we sing together, I become very conscious of bhaijaan's presence. At the same time I have to make sure the audience believes that we're most comfortable with each other.
JS: When we perform together, it's his responsibility to take care of me and mine to take care of him.

On: Tonight, 6.30 pm
At: Shanmukhananda Hall, J Yagnik Marg, near King Circle, Sion (E).
Call: 24092211

Other music events in the city
Deutsche Philharmonie Merck
Deutsche Philharmonie Merck (Merck Philharmonic Orchestra Germany) is named after the Merck family of pharmacists. The company, Merck in Darmstadt, Germany, is the orchestra's main sponsor. The ensemble was founded in 1966, initially as an orchestra for employees called the Merck Instrumental Group.  The concert will mark the opening of a 15 month series of events -- Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities -- that is being organised to commemorate the Year of Germany in India.

On: Tonight, 6.30 pm
At: Jamshed Bhabha Auditorium, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call: 22824567

Ray Ban Never Hide Sounds
Ray-Ban Never Hide Sounds is the first-ever nationwide Rock band hunt that is targetted at young musicians who have never had the opportunity to perform in public before. The editors of Rolling Stone magazine will help prepare the short list of bands, from which a jury will select five winners.

On: September 25, 9.30 am to 11.00 pm
At: Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel. Bands can register by emailing

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